Green Advertisers, Government Warned on Environmental Claims

In response to a proliferation of “green” or “environmentally friendly” claims in advertising, the British Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) this week updated their codes of conduct for advertisers seeking to hawk their products as kind to the planet.

But one of the most prominent recent accusations of exaggerated environmental claims involves not a private company but the British government. The controversial Act on CO2 campaign, which warns Brits on the dangers of global warming had, until this week, included two rewrites of classic nursery rhymes with a climate change theme:

“Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. There was none, as extreme weather due to climate change had caused a drought.”

And

“Rub a dub dub, three men in a tub, a necessary course of action due to flash flooding caused by climate change.”

On Tuesday, the Advertising Standards Authority rebuked the government for warning that, as a result of global warming, “flooding, heat waves and storms will become more frequent and intense.” The Authority, reacting to more than 900 complaints from the British public, said predictions of the specific effects of global warming are still tentative.

The government said it would continue the campaign, but without the controversial nursery rhyme ads. A television commercial, which some call “too scary” is still on the air.

A sea of green

The UK is not the only country struggling with a proliferation of green claims. In the US, the Federal Trade Commission hopes to have new Green Guidelines governing environmental advertising out this year. Plans to review the guidelines, which were first put in place in 1992, were bumped up from 2008 to 2007 after the flood of new green products introduced in the last several years.

FTC public affairs specialist Mitch Katz said the agency has already sent out several warning letters this year regarding environmental claims.

BC (Ben) Upham is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. He has written for the New York Times, and was a writer and editor for News Communications, Inc., a local paper consortium serving Manhattan. When he's not blogging on green issues -- and especially renewable energy -- he's hiking in the Angeles Mountains or hanging out at El Matador.